Instead of going to Chinatown for dim sum, my wife and I tried a place that we had not been to yet. It's in the Asian strip mall at 7th and Washington. Also in that mall is International Smokeless Barbecue (also very good). The place we went to has a huge sign that says "Sunrise" and has lots of Asian characters. At the bottom of the sign it says "dim sum."
The dim sum was _vastly_ superior to the food that I've had at places in Chinatown (HK Golden Phoenix, Lakeside Chinese Deli, Ocean Harbor, Joy Tsin Lau, Ho Sai Gai, Imperial Inn). The place was mobbed and we were the only table of all Caucasions.
Sunrise has the usual roving cart setup. It's the type of place that seats one area at a time so that if you don't get everything you want right away, it's difficult to get what you want to come back.
The dishes were an excellent mix of the usual (shumai, sticky rice, flat noodles, congee) and house specialties of varous kinds of dumplings, several forms of tripe and pancakes (taro, turnip).
Everything was more vibrant and flavorful than I have had elsewhere in Philly. And, surprisingly, everything was hot, so much so that two things actually burned my mouth. Nothing lukewarm and recycled like in Chinatown. Also, waitresses came around with trays of salt shrimp and trays of vegetables.
The highlights (for me at least) were the sticky rice with lots of pork, chive bun, shark fin dumpling, tripe in sate sauce and the fried dessert dumpling (more like an empanada in consistency) filled with lightly sweetened pork and shrimp. We also had flat noodles with shrimp, shrimp dumplings, meatball dumplings and fried dumplings with meat.
Though the clientele was strictly Asian, most of the servers (especially the younger ones) spoke perfect English and were knowledgeable about the contents of each of the dishes. The owner was very friendly and seemed to genuinely care that we were enjoying ourselves.
Each of the tables had various sauces including chili oil, chili paste, hoisin and sliced jalapenos in vinegar. Also, a Vietnamese menu was on each table, though I didn't see anyone order anything off of the menu. Specials were handwritten and hung on the wall in Vietnamese.
The matter of the check was a typical dim sum experience. The waiter tallied the bill and it "miraculously" came to $25 even. Having ordered 10 dishes (we were stuffed), it was a great deal.
There is no question that we will go back to Sunrise before going back to Chinatown. It was a wonderful Chowhound experience.